Before the Kings and Queens of Joseon, there was the Three Kingdoms period ruled by Silla, Baekje, and Goguryeo. Our story takes place Goguryeo, the biggest kingdom of the three. Based on the Korean folktale Pyeonggang and Ondal, it’s the story of a warrior princess who wants to take back her kingdom. She falls in love with On Dal, who helps her in her journey to become the first female emperor of Goguryeo.
River is actually a reunion project for many in the cast. Kim So-Hyun and Ji Soo previously starred together in the mini series Page Turner where they first captured hearts and showed their amazing chemistry. Ji Soo also reunites with Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo castmate Kang Ha-Neul, who plays his father in a special role.
In sweeping beautiful visuals and amazing action scenes, we explore the world of River in such a riveting way. Add to this the perfect casting of Kim So-Hyun as Pyeonggang and Ji Soo as On Dal, everyone is in for an epic ride.
Pyeonggang – The Warrior Princess
What can we expect from seasoned actress Kim So-Hyun? The sageuk genre is not new to her, she’s been acting in them since she was a kid. But the writer of this show poses a challenge – to play a role with duality, a warrior and a princess. Though we haven’t seen Kim So-Hyun’s version of Pyeonggang yet, she definitely nailed the warrior aspect with amazing action scenes. She also captured nuance in portraying someone skilled in fighting but is having second thoughts in her current occupation.
This doesn’t mean she doesn’t deliver on elegance and grace either. In the first episodes, she mainly plays the Queen (Pyeonggang’s mother) and nails the role as well. It reminds us of her role in Goblin! She has that commanding presence, even if she may be the smallest person in the room. She has that surprise moment at the end of the second episode that left us cheering for her, definitely something to look forward to!
Love Pyeonggang’s scenes with On Dal as well, which is something we’re so excited to see develop in the next few episodes.
On Dal – The Fool
Speaking of On Dal, this is definitely perfect casting for Ji Soo! He perfectly captures On Dal’s friendliness and child-like lens of the world. But he’s also able to manage the weight on On Dal’s shoulders, the promise to his father to be a “fool” and that responsibility of taking care of his blind adopted mother. Love that we’re able to get a good balance of both.
So is On Dal a fool as the folktale suggests? In the beginning he seems like it! In the last episode, he believes Ga-Jin to be a court maid when she’s obviously an assassin by her sword skills. But we’re thinking the show is suggesting that he’s only pretending not to know. He needs to be a “fool” to be able to survive and live peacefully, and hide what he truly knows. It actually feels a lot like Kim Jung-Hyun’s character King Cheoljong in Mr. Queen but in a more subtle way. If we can trust the folktale with the way the show will progress, we hope that his strength and wisdom takes center-stage on his journey to becoming Pyeonggang’s General.
Politics, royalty, and a rebellion?
It’s not a real sageuk without royal machinations and a brewing rebellion in the sidelines! The perfect recipe to any historical is the intrigue and mystery this brings, and River does not disappoint!
The first two episodes were a very good set up for the rest of the drama as it shares the tragic tale of Pyeonggang’s parents – the courageous strength of the Queen and the lowness of spirit within the King. The show also introduced Go Won-Pyo, an ambitious politician and Jin Bi, one of the King’s concubines who plot to overthrow the King and take his place.
They say that regrets often happen at the end. Sadly, this is what happens to King Pyeongwon when he realizes that his blind jealousy clouded his judgement and cost him the most important thing in his life, and eventually cost him his sanity. Will he be reunited with Pyeonggang again? Will he be manipulated into being dethroned? Will all be put to justice? These are just some questions we hope will be answered in the next episodes of the show.
Beyond the Palace
And there’s that other side of the coin as well. In the shadows of the court are some potential enemies and allies. Kang Ha-Neul perfectly played General On-Hyeop of the Sunnobu region, a dutiful and respected general who put his people first. Many of his loyal followers in the present are still in the shadows so we hope that we will be able to see what they can put into the table come the rebellion.
There’s also the assassins of Cheonjubang, the group that actually took Pyeonggang in to become Yeom Ga-Jin. It’s still a mystery how they were able to find her, or if they know of her origins. But we’ll most likely see them play a big role in the political machinations. We just don’t know how or how big.
We’re also excited to know more about Go Geon (Go Won-Pyo’s son) as well as the mysterious Hae Mo-Yong. What would their role be in the inner workings of court politics? Will they be against or for Pyeonggang ascending the throne?
Very rich in storytelling and paired with some amazing visuals. It’s no surprise that many are looking forward to watching the show every Monday and Tuesday night. We know we are!
Haven’t seen the first episode yet? Check out the link below!Watch Episode 1 here!